I Love Small Town Television
I JUST LOVE SMALL TOWN TELEVISION. There are two television stations in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Our antenna has been hit by lightning.”). I find it surprising that we have two stations. Terre Haute is a town of only 60,000 people – not exactly a Megalopolis, but both stations seem to be solvent and filled with happy talk.
Being in a very small market assures that our stations are where careers in broadcasting begin. Most of the on-air “talent” is fresh out of school and eager to become the “Next Big Thing.” In Terre Haute that means that they will be doing newsbreaks and weather reports on weekends and holidays.
As one could imagine, the Newbies come and go quickly. Some move on to larger markets, a few move across town to the other station, and many move on back home and take that teaching position in their old high school. There is more turn-over than at the local IHOP.
A week or so ago I and my wife, the lovely and publicity savvy, Dawn, were down at Channel Two – at 5:45 AM. Dawn was there to do a promo for the church’s annual Strawberry Festival. I was there as her Roadie – which means that I sat in the corner and tried to not make any noise. I can be quite silent if need be.
When we arrived at the station we were ushered into the studio where there were three other people – one cameraman jumping back and forth between two cameras, the Weather Bunny who, with two years on the job, is considered an “Old Timer,” and The News Anchor – a young woman I have never seen before who looked very nervous. I’m sure that she was at least 21 or 22 years old, but she looked like a 12 year old who had broken into her mother’s cosmetics stash. The Weather Bunny was giving her tips and advice nonstop. You know that you are a Newbie when your Mentor is only two years older than you.
Being in the role of “News Anchor” the Newbie was trying to exude a certain Gravitas – something that is not easy at 5:45 AM. It looked more like Narcolepsy than Gravitas.
I’ve written about this station before and the “talent.” There are a few old hands working there – broadcasters who are locals and have been with the station for decades, but you don’t often see them at 5:45 AM. Seniority has some clout – even in a small market like Terre Haute. For the early shift you are most likely to see the “First Jobbers” who have visions of New York dancing in their heads. Most will never make it that far, but some might.
There was a Weather Bunny at Channel Two a few years back who got her first job here and within a few days it was obvious to everybody that this gal was going to go places. In less than two years she was picked up by a station in St. Louis – a Major Market. New York is in her future.
The current Weather Bunny is a bit more questionable. Seeing her stand in front of the “Green Screen” today she shows a great deal of progress. She now knows how to pronounce the names of all the local towns. She no longer wanders off her mark, vanishing, until all we see are her hands waving over the jet stream. She does have one problem to overcome – falling over.
As she finishes her Green Screen graphics session she walks off camera and heads over to the Anchor Desk, still giving weather details en route. For the third time (the most recent two days ago), by her own confession, she had tripped over the cables snaking away from the cameras, and done a face-plant on the studio floor with her live microphone catching it all. This peccadillo could be an impediment on her way to The Big Time. Oh, well, so it goes.
Dawn and the Newbie did the Strawberry Festival Promo without anyone falling over and we were out of there by 6:30 AM – just in time for breakfast.